Guilty verdict in murder, home invasion in Hinsdale; jury rules it especially brutal
A jury has found Dominic Sanders guilty of first-degree murder, home invasion and residential burglary in the slaying of Andrea Urban of Hinsdale in 2017, and it called the murder especially brutal or heinous.
That means Sanders would be eligible for a natural life sentence.
The jurors believed the prosecutors' argument, that Urban was killed in a vicious outburst of rage during a burglary of her home, and not the defense argument, that somebody else killed her later that day, after Sanders stole and sold two of Urban's rings.
DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin announced afterward that his office will indeed seek a life sentence for Sanders. He also confirmed that he never offered Sanders a plea deal.
Urban's daughter, son, mother, brother and other friends and relatives were in the courtroom for the verdict. Urban's son, Alexander "Sasha" Kuznetsov, gave a brief statement at a news conference.
"We are very grateful to the wonderful police officers on this case and to the prosecutors for the verdict they achieved on this case," he said. "It is a nice relief for our family right now."
Berlin credited the work of not just his prosecutorial team but of the police officers from Hinsdale, Burr Ridge, Downers Grove and other departments that investigated the case. Their work, he said, "gave my office a great deal of evidence," Berlin said. "DNA is very powerful evidence."
And he also credited the residents of Hinsdale who, when they learned of the murder that day, started calling police to say they had seen something suspicious that day about a man walking around the area.
"It shows how important community is," Berlin said.
Those calls led police to look for video surveillance cameras that might show the man. That ultimately led police to video of the man entering and leaving a parking lot, and a silver Dodge Charger entering and exiting that lot around the same times. A check of a nearby gasoline station showed a silver Dodge Charger and its driver buying gasoline.
A 40-year veteran Hinsdale police investigative aide knew there was a red-light camera system at Ogden Avenue and Wolf Road in Western Springs, and a check of that gave police a license plate. That led to finding out Sanders was the owner of the car, and a detective's hunch to run Sanders name through a database of pawnshop transaction reports led to the Melrose Park pawnshop where the rings were sold.
During closing arguments earlier Friday at his murder trial, prosecutors painted a picture of Sanders casing houses to burglarize the morning of May 4, 2017, entering Urban's house because he thought no one was home, and then beating her and slashing her throat from behind, when she discovered him.
"So the last moments of her life were spent in that degrading position on the kitchen floor, bleeding to death," Assistant State's Attorney Catherine DeLaMar told the jury, showing them a photograph of Urban, face down, surrounded by blood, with her clothing cut and her leggings around her knees.
DeLaMar repeated a statement made by Sanders when he was arrested and questioned by police 20 days after the slaying, in which he admitted stealing the rings but said he immediately wanted to go back and apologize, but feared Urban would call police.
"That's why he took that knife and slit her throat and hit her with the knife" so hard she suffered skull fractures, DeLaMar said.
But senior public defender Teresa Rioux argued the timeline the state presented, with videos from a bank, parking lots and a house, indicate Sanders couldn't have had the time to walk from where he parked, get to Urban's house blocks away, burglarize and murder her and get back in the time presented.
She raised doubts about the storage of one of Sanders' shoes, on which authorities say they found drops of Andrea Urban's blood, suggesting they may have come into contact with other collected evidence. The shoes were collected when Sanders was arrested.
She noted that aside from the large amount of blood on the kitchen floor, there were no bloody footprints, that Urban's purse and wallet were still in the kitchen, and that of fingerprints suitable for testing, none belonged to Sanders.
The home, including the kitchen, appeared tidy, with the knife block from which the knife was taken neatly lined up with two other knife blocks on a counter. "It doesn't appear there was a struggle with a stranger," Rioux said.
She suggested Urban may have been wearing the rings that day, took them off to do some weeding and put them on a ledge inside the front door. Urban's son had testified only mail was put on that ledge, and her daughter testified the rings, which were family heirlooms, were stored in a dresser cabinet in Urban's bedroom when they weren't being worn.
Sanders told police Urban's front door was unlocked, and that he opened the door, saw the rings, leaned in and took them.
The jury of five women and seven men received the case shortly before 1:30 p.m. Friday.